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Saturday, December 3, 2011


     scott freeman, jeanette williams, johnny williams

     scott freeman, brandy miller, edwin lacy

              jeanette williams

              johnny williams

              scott freeman

     willard gayheart

     scott freeman, brandy miller, edwin lacy, jeanette williams, johnny williams

All the way to Woodlawn this evening just after dark I saw something in the sky above Galax. It had 2 white lights and one blue light above white light on the right. It didn't move. I watched all the way until getting close to Galax it was overhead and I couldn't see it for the car roof. Galax was having a parade this evening, causing me to wonder if it might be a blimp or something having to do with the parade. That didn't quite satisfy. It wasn't stars, because the sky was overcast and no stars were showing. These lights I saw were this side of the clouds. On the way home 4 hours later I saw it again (first time, 5:30 - 6:30, second time 9:30 - 10:30), this time looking like it was over Sparta. As I approached Sparta, it looked to be more like over Cherry Lane and possibly on its way in super slow motion, 10 mph or less, toward Elkin. (I imagine it's over Elkin now as I write) I looked for every kind of way I could call it something besides a UFO, but couldn't find it. It wasn't a helicopter, didn't appear to be a blimp and didn't look like a balloon either. I took two photos of it. It appears as a tiny dot. Enlarge it and there comes a time just before it turns into a pattern of square pixels I can see the 2 white lights and the blue light like what I saw. I can't make out anything but the lights, but it looked awfully much like one thing only. I've not spotted one in awhile. I'm glad to see they're still around. 

It feels good to be in the presence of live bluegrass when it has good mountain drive played by mountain people. Johnny Williams is from Fries (pron freeze), Virginia, and they live now at Danville, Virginia, not too far north of Winston-Salem. Jeanette Williams band has made 10 or more cds and she won female bluegrass singer of the year in 2009. Jeanette plays the bass and sings. Her band is the Jeanette Williams band. Her website:   Willard and Scott opened the show with 2 songs like they always do. Then Scott played mandolin and sometimes fiddle with Jeanette on bass and Johnny rhythm guitar. They harmonize together nicely too. I thought I heard Jeanette say the three of them have recently recorded a an album of songs, the album due I think I remember February. I later confirmed it with Willard, and sure enough, the three of them have a "project." I already know it's going to be one super fine collection of music. Johnny and Jeanette laying down the rhythm and Scott tearing up his mandolin and fiddle, singing, Jeanette and Johnny singing. There's no way around it being anything but an incredible example of music from the Central Blue Ridge.

An audience of around 20, everybody charmed by the music in the band's playing. Jeanette asked a 14 year old girl who had brought her banjo, sitting on the front row with her dad, to pick a few songs. She started off with John Hardy and right off let us all know this girl can pick. She's a student of Steve Lewis in W Jefferson. Steve is a good teacher. It showed tonight, too. She played so well with the band, playing well on songs, too, that she'd never played or heard before, that toward the end of the show Jeanette emphasized Brandy's playing, saying she's been struck by how she can jump right into a song she doesn't know and by the place in the tune where it's time for her break, she's ready and does it well. Jeanette was watching her hands all through the latter part of the show. The band was asking her to step forward and play something several times. Everybody in the band liked her banjo. Jeanette is with a band called Daughters Of Bluegrass, all women. I had a feeling that after the show, Jeanette and Brandy and Brandy's dad had a conversation about Brandy's near future, and possibly some sound counsel from Jeanette to Brandy that Brandy will never forget. The evening felt an awful lot like it was a star is born performance. It wasn't like there was a beginner in the band. She was no beginner. Steve taught her well. In the later part of the show, her dad was beaming. 

Jeanette asked Edwin Lacy to join the band. Bluegrass banjo and old-time banjo together. It worked. There seemed to be a spirit in the air tonight of the project Johnny produced, CLOSE KIN, recently released by a fairly new label at Bristol, Mountain Roads. Website:   Mountain Roads has titles by Johnny Williams, Elkville String Band, VW Boys, Scott Freeman's band of his brothers, Pathway, Jim Lloyd, all of them Northwest North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. It's the music of what we call the Central Blue Ridge. The Close Kin album brought bluegrass and old-time together. Jr Maxwell has told me about Galax fiddler Otis Burris, Alleghany fiddler Cleve Andrews, Pine Swamp fiddler Howard Joines, that they played bluegrass in a style that was a mix of old-time and bluegrass. The early years of bluegrass saw quite a lot of old-time tunes bluegrassed. The album has I think 29 musicians from this region. They play in different mixes, not always people they usually make music with. They take old-time tunes and bluegrass them. It has very much the sound of this region. The bluegrass from these mountains tends to bluegrass old-time tunes. Jr Maxwell's band, The Green Mountain Boys, bluegrassed a good many old-time tunes. Art Wooten, one of their fiddlers, played in that zone too.

The show tonight made an intimate connection with the audience. Jeanette and Johnny, both, have audience inclusive personalities. They speak directly to the audience, not to an idea of an audience. Jeanette mentioned between a couple of songs that she prefers to play for a small group like us than for a million people that don't listen, the same observation she made last time they played at the Front Porch series the Fiddle and the Plow. I always forget that the show is called the Fiddle and the Plow. I call it the Front Porch, because that's where it is. The spirit in the air among the musicians appeared to be a celebration of that sound, bluegrassing old-time. They played the Carter Family's Foggy Mountain Top. Brandy Miller played Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Backstep in such a way it told me she is in touch with her banjo. The girl can pick. She was a treat for the audience, too. Everybody projected support to her. The music flowed. The musicians flowed together. The audience flowed with the band. Johnny Williams produced the Close Kin album. Jeanette and Scott are on it, too. I love the entire album, but Johnny's song at the start, Chilly Winds is the finest I've heard that song and Johnny singing. For my ear, he made this song his own. Johnny's album, Last Days of Galax, is a good one too.

Edwin Lacy has recently put together a cd of him playing songs of his composition. I already know the songs on it, so I can hear in my head what it sounds like. I'll need to get a couple more next time I go there for Christmas presents. Edwin playing bluegrass with the band tonight gave it an interesting sound. His old-time banjo played very well with the bluegrass banjo. They sounded good together. Brandy Miller was the star of the show tonight. It was her night, the night she played with the big dogs. Like Courtney Burroughs playing fiddle with Dale Ann Bradley at the National Folk Festival in Nashville three months ago. Courtney is a good young fiddler, who has played at a Fiddle and Plow show with the Hungry Hash House Ramblers. You can find a lot of videos on YouTube of Courtney. These are the young ones coming on to learn the music and pass it on to the next generation. I think of old-time musicians as carriers of the music, the keepers of it during their time, then passing it on, teaching and encouraging the young ones. Tonight was a good example of the tradition in mountain music of giving the young ones a moment to shine. 

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